How a sermon led a minister to face the KKK
That was the second bullet point of a sermon I put together a few months ago. It was based on Psalm 97 — which proclaims that “righteousness” and “justice” serve as the foundation of God’s throne. We might choose other pairings, but the Lord chooses to undergird his kingdom with righteousness and justice.
Of particular interest to me was the 10th verse, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
As I was composing an exhortation for righteous believers to carry light into a dark world, a news story popped up on my homepage. The Huffington Post reported, “Whites-Only Christians Conference Held in Alabama.”
As a minister in Huntsville, Ala., I constantly am looking for ways to change the perception of our state and the Deep South, especially when it comes to bigotry. After reading the article, it was apparent this group was doing everything they could to keep those stereotypes intact.
The Church of God’s Chosen near Winfield, Ala., was holding a gospel meeting, and all Christians were invited. The event was sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan, but non-Klan members were welcome as well — as long as they were white. According to the group’s schedule, at the close of the lectures that evening, the Klan would conduct a cross-burning ceremony.
I could not believe what I was reading. I didn’t know if it was the smartest thing to do, but I felt like I was being led to do something. I had found evil. Now I felt I had to confront it.
Before making this two-hour trip, I laid my fleece before God that I wasn’t going alone. The Lord had to lay it on someone else’s heart as well. I began putting out feelers around lunchtime.
“I’m thinking about driving out to the deep woods of West Alabama to tell some members of the Ku Klux Klan that I don’t approve of their ‘whites only’ gospel meeting. Don’t worry, we won’t stay long. I want to leave before the cross burning. Wanna come?”
Out of the 10 calls I placed I didn’t have any takers. I was kind of relieved. Before I left the office I said a prayer, “Lord, forgive me when I misinterpret your will and get ahead of what you would have me to do.” A few minutes later, Brian Bellomy, my insurance agent called me back and said, “Our babysitter is willing to stay late. I’m in!”
Just outside of Winfield, we located the gravel road listed in the article. Nervously we pulled off the highway. About a mile back in the woods, we drove up to a locked metal gate flanked by two young men. When we got out of our car and noticed they were wearing shirts that said “Ku Klux Klan — The Original Boys in the Hood,” we knew we were in the right place.
When they asked our intentions, we told them we were there to speak with the person in charge of the event.
Inside the gate and past a parking area, we were led to a white, wood-framed building in the middle of a clearing where the meetings were taking place. Inside were old, wooden chairs with the words, “whites only” stenciled on the back.
After a few minutes, the Rev. Mel Lewis emerged from an old school bus up on blocks.
As he approached, our hearts began to race when a younger man walked up behind us holding a roll of bailing wire in his hands. We introduced ourselves and told him we were there to gain a better understanding of what they were trying to do, but also to voice our displeasure.
We explained that bigotry was one thing, but bigotry in the name of Christ was something altogether different.
For the next 20 minutes, Rev. Lewis explained their warped view of Scripture, namely that Jews, blacks, Hispanics and Muslims — “the mongrels” — were created “without souls” in Genesis 1, and the pure line of Adam, white people, were created later by God in Genesis 2.
We tried to explain that, in Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female. We all are one in Jesus. Our host responded that Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” refer only to whites, and they trump Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Knowing that we were not going to make headway with them theologically, we shared that our church strives for racial reconciliation and tearing down the walls that divide us. We also shared that events like this set back perceptions of the church and the message of Jesus.
When the sky turned to dusk and a group of men brought out the cross wrapped in old sheets we knew it was time for us to go.
As we were escorted back through the gate, the thing that stuck with me was the final thing that the Klan leader told us, “Well, there have been several reporters and news crews coming out here, but you are the first folks from a church to come talk with us.”
I’m glad we made the effort to let them know not all believers in Christ fall in line with their understanding of Scripture and the way they are walking out their beliefs.
Though we were surrounded and outnumbered the entire time we were there, Brian and I felt at peace, “for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
BRAD COX is preaching minister for the Twickenham Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. Before moving to Alabama six years ago, he and his wife, Jill, worked with youth groups in the Texas cities of Houston, Garland and Waco. Contact him at [email protected].
FeedbackI commend and applaud you Brad for having the moxy and courage to do what you did. It’s a shame that there are groups like the KKK still in existence in 21st century USA. I pray that this will encourage me and others to be bold in standing up for the true faith and Gospel of Jesus Christ in 2013 and beyond.Kevin WilsonBammel Church of ChristHouston, TX
USAJanuary, 1 2013I believe God has placed on a path where the Gates of Hell shall not prevail. Look at the exciting example that the church in Houston provided with their Campaign for Christ, may it inspire you to blaze that same path with the Lord’s church in Huntsville and the surrounding areas. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of evil.Willard CriglerNormandie church of ChristL.A., Ca
USAOctober, 16 2012I’m embarrassed that this incident occurred in Alabama. It is still shocking that something like this can happen. Thank you to these two wonderful men for speaking out!CarrieRiverchaseBirmingham, AL
USAOctober, 15 2012Brad and Brian,
Thank you for your courage. The church has remained silent on this issue far too long. People want to pretend that racism no longer exists but as an African-American living in the South, I deal with it constantly. It is even sadder when it takes place within the church. Brothers like you give me hope that the church will one day take a stronger stand and say, “We will not ignore it. This is not right!”Dwan ReedChampionsHouston, TX
United StatesOctober, 11 2012That takes Faith Brother and that is what Jesus teaches us, not to be afraid of those who can kill the body but to be afraid of Him who can destroy both the body and the soul. You are to be commended for your bravery and we pray more and more men like you both will step out to trust God at His word, (That is Faith) and encourage others to do the same because OUR GOD IS ALIVE BROTHER!Those souls need saving and not condemned!Lets pray for them!John JansenBroadway GalvestonTexas City, TX
USAOctober, 11 2012Good job, Brad & Brian. The KKK may not have believed what you said, but you spoke the truth and they will not likely forget it soon. God’s word is powerful, and it will not return to Him without accomplishing its purpose.Joe SlaterJustin Church of ChristJustin, TX
USAOctober, 11 2012Thank you, brother, for an example of an approach to the evils of racism that was righteous and loving at the same time. I’m not sure I could do what you did without losing my temper and being unChristian myself. Thank God for your great love for all men. You showed the love of Christ in your actions.Jay KelleyAustin StreetLevelland, Texas
USAOctober, 11 2012May the Lord bless you, Brad.
God’s word is plain: “If you show partiality, you commit sin” (James 2:9).Roy DavisonThe Lord’s church meeting atBurcht, Province of Antwerp
BelgiumOctober, 11 2012It still shocks me that there are many who have their own “idea” of He who created us all, as well as their “ideas” of what happened in times past, by using race as a factor. How courageous it was of you to confront a KKK religious leader, as well as having assistance. Kind of reminds me of the example of Paul and Silas in Thesalonica and Berea, as well as Paul in Corinth (Acts 17 & 18).Jerome HughesDowntown Church of ChristNorfolk, Virginia
USAOctober, 9 2012